World Censors

 2005

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28th  December  Ignoring Censorship

Based on an article from Chennai Online

The Indian Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) detected more than 300 cases of violation of censor certificates in 2005.

This included 104 in Thiruvananthapuram, 100 in Bangalore, 45 in Chennai, 22 in Delhi, 20 in Kolkata, six in Hyderabad and five in Mumbai.

Even as the enforcement of the penal provisions of the Cinematograph Act, governing film censorship in India, lies with the state governments, private detective agencies have been roped for all the nine regions under CBFC. These snitches assist in checking violations by conducting raids in cinema theatre.

 

13th  December  Tolerantly Seeking More Repression

From Navhind Times

Members of the Bangladesh parliament have urged the government to introduce a tough censorship law with provisions for jailing and fining those responsible for producing and screening obscene movies.

Obscene films are being screened regularly as there is little scope for punishment in the existing law, said Ebadur Rahman Chowdhury, chairman of a 10-member parliamentary committee. Members of the parliamentary standing committee have expressed grave concern over obscenity and vulgarity shown in movies.

Earlier the Information Minister, M Shamsul Islam said the government would stop obscenity and nudity in films at any cost and would operate mobile courts, if necessary, to take action against the theatres and producers who screen these kinds of films.

The government recently drafted a bill proposing stringent punishment for the people involved in obscenity in movies, but we urge the government to make the law tougher, another parliament member told IANS.

The Censorship of Films (Amendment) Bill 2005 aims to get tough on a section of filmmakers who have introduced obscenity in their films to make more profits, he said. If it is enacted by parliament, any filmmakers proved guilty of using obscene shots in a movie will face up to three years in jail.

 

13th  December  Staid Censors Stayed

Based on an article from The New Nation

The producers and directors of films are now trying to counter the staid position taken by the Bangladesh Film Censor Board (BFCB) by moving the higher courts for stay orders against its decisions, informed sources say.

Some of them recently gave threats to the members of the Board compelling them to temporarily suspend censoring films in protest. But the producers and directors are trying to use stay orders of higher courts as shields to continue with content that the censors claim is obscene.

Members of the Censor Board in a resolution said that Sharif Uddin Khan Dipu gave them threats against cutting off sequences of his film Encounter. He also abused the members of the Board when they were coming out of the show that day.

Secretary of the Censor Board Jasim Uddin Ahmed filed a case with the Paltan Police Station in this regard.

A member of the Censor Board told The New Nation that a vested group was involved in a move to obstruct the board members’ activities as they were trying to stop supposed vulgarity in cinema. A section of filmmakers are exhibiting films in movie houses flouting Censor Board certification, he said.

The Information Ministry has initiated a move to amend the Film Censor Act 1963. It also proposes to update Censor Code, empower officers of the Censor Board and District Information officers to seize supposedly obscene films, appoint lawyers and increase financial support to the Board.

Vice Chairman of the Censor Board Abu Abdullah said:
We lack lawyers to monitor and pursue cases filed by makers of obscene films. Now the Board secretary and I are attending courts to pursue the legal matter with the government pleaders and the Attorney general.

 

4th  December  Welcoming New Rules with a Kiss

Based on an article from DNA India

It's official. On-screen kisses are no longer considered obscene.

Henceforth, the Central Board of Film Certification, better known as the censor board, will cast a more benign eye on passionate smooches in films, with policy makers deciding, "after careful consideration", that kissing is "admitted and permitted".

Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi said as much while responding to a question by Marxist MP Minati Sen on obscenity in film and on television and the need to give more teeth to the Cable TV Act 1995.

Dasmunshi urged MPs to take a more liberal line on the subject. He said that while a regulatory mechanism is in place, self-regulation is the most effective means of dealing with the subject of obscenity.

Dasmunshi was categorical in his statement: I would like to inform members that kissing in films was earlier prohibited. But due to growing emergence of electronic media throughout the world, especially in the subcontinent, after careful consideration it has been admitted and permitted.

He said obscenity must be judged by the censors on the standards of the time. There is no statutory definition of obscenity or violence except in the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code. But so far as films are concerned, what actually is violence or what actually is obscenity is to be studied with careful understanding of art, philosophy, and that is being studied by the censor board, Dasmunshi said.

 

14th November  Singing Some Old Nutter Standards

Based on an article from Scoop

The New Zealand nutters of the Society For Promotion Of Community Standards have been whinging at the censor for passing the internationally successful films of Irreversible and 9 Songs

From a Society For Promotion Of Community Standards press release:

The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) - notes in its Annual Report 2005, recently tabled in parliament, that the two films most complained about by members of the public over the last year, were 9 Songs and Irreversible. Both were films that the Society sought unsuccessfully to have banned or cut, by seeking reviews of the classifications by the Film and Literature Board of Review. In both cases the Board unanimously upheld the R18 classifications issued by the Classification Office. The OFLC Report 2005 states:

Most complaints about 9 Songs centred on the fact it contained explicit sex scenes and was to be shown at cinemas....9 Songs attracted the most inquiries and complaints of any individual publication in 2004/05.

The film that attracted the second largest number of inquiries and complaints was Irreversible.... Complainants generally argued that the film should have been banned.


The Society remains convinced that the film should have been banned. The OFLC, the Board and the Courts lacked the will to ban it. spokesman Mike Petrus said:

The widespread complaints over 9 Songs demonstrate that the Society is continuing to play an effective "watchdog" role in the field of film censorship. In its Annual Report 2005 the Chief Censor's Office brushes aside the public's expressed indignation over the sexually explicit content in the film by stating that in fact, any sexually explicit film classified R18 can be exhibited in a cinema. This illustrates how out of touch the Office is with mainstream New Zealanders who do not want such sexually explicit material in public cinemas.

The nutters are also doing their utmost to get Baise Moi banned too

 

11th November  Getting Wound up by Youngster's Games Choice

It is a question that censors should never ask. "Do you follow our ratings?" The polite response would be "I certainly find them useful to determine suitable viewing for my children"...But it is absurd that parents should be expected to follow them to the letter. The New Zealanders stupidly asked this question and got the answer that is blatantly obvious..."no"

How on earth could you even consider suggesting that your working 16 year old just emerging from shagging their partner should be denied a viewing of an 18 rated Bruce Willis movie? A probable realistic rule of thumb is that all movies are overrated by one age category. 

From Stuff

Video game labelling should be simplified so people know what they are buying, the Consumers' Institute says.

Investigative writer Martin Craig said the range of different labels from New Zealand, Australia and other countries confused buyers, and the institute welcomed a review proposed by chief censor Bill Hastings.

In the 2005 annual report of the Office of Film and Literature Classification, tabled in Parliament yesterday, Hastings said that unlike films, computer games that were not restricted did not have to be rated or labelled in New Zealand.

As a result, about 90 per cent of the games that appeared in New Zealand carried an Australian classification label. Research by the office in 2005 found that only 56 per cent of teenagers surveyed understood the meaning of one of those labels.

Craig agreed with the need for change.  New Zealanders are already familiar with the labelling system used for videos and DVDs, and the proposed changes will bring video games into line," he said.

A report in the latest issue of Consumer magazine showed under age buyers had few problems getting R18 video games.

Retailers have a responsibility to ensure they are not selling restricted games to under-age customers. While ID is usually required to buy alcohol, the report strongly suggests that game retailers have a casual attitude to meeting their legal responsibilities, Craig said.

Hastings said when his office classified games that had not been restricted in Australia, it gave most of them a restricted classification. The decision to exempt unrestricted video games was made in 1993 and times had changed, Mr Hastings said. In 1993 when the law was passed, games were seen to have a limited appeal and small likelihood of causing harm. Games have become more realistic and hugely popular. Some are developed solely for an adult audience.

He said the Film and Literature Classification Office was alarmed at what appeared to be a rising number of children playing R18 games. A survey of 331 students aged 15 to 17 carried out by the Film and Literature Classification Office in April showed 62 per cent had played at least one of 26 games classified R18 or banned by the censor. Hastings said parents should have more education about the effects of violent games on young people. The content of these games is quite amazing. If parents actually sat down with their kids and watched the kids play the game –- which is illegal –- I think many eyes would be opened in terms of the levels of violence and the levels of realism.

 

2nd November  Nutters vs Censors

From Scoop

The New Zealand nutters, the Society For The Promotion Of Community Standards have written to the  new Minister of Internal Affairs, Rick Barker, to replace all nine members of the appeals body, the Film & Literature Board of Review, including the Governor-General's husband Peter Cartwright. Mr Cartwright’s term of office, along with those of seven other board members, expired 15 months ago on 31 May 2004. Their re-appointment can only be made by his wife, Governor-General, Dame Sylvia Cartwright, on the recommendation of the Minister. The Society points out that in the case of the appointment or reappointment of husband Peter, this involves obvious conflict of interests on the part of his wife.

The nutters claim that Mr Cartwright, formerly Chair of the Indecent Publications Tribunal and Chair of the Broadcasting Standards Authority, has demonstrated a consistently liberal approach to the censorship of publications containing sexually explicit content and extreme violence. They cite examples of Baise-Moi, Visitor Q and Irreversible.

The Promotion Of Community Standards outlined their concerns in the letter as follows:

1. The Board has demonstrated an extremely liberal approach to censorship. Rather than acting as a vigilant and competent "gate-keeper," it has given its stamp of approval for the release of films, videos and DVDs for public adult cinema containing: extended, explicit and gratuitous depictions of brutal rape (mainstream release of Baise-Moi , Irreversible, Twenty-Nine Palms), necrophilia, graphic violence involving sexual mutilation (Visitor Q) and the degradation, demeaning and dehumanising of women (e.g. Sinners No Doctor) etc.

Hundreds of such explicit videos, DVDs and films depicting men ejaculating onto the faces of women, multiple penetration (anal and vaginal), oral sex, "anal mania", sadomasochism (S & M), incest, homosexual and lesbian sex, prostitution, young people masturbating, "how-to-do" drug-taking, obscene language etc. are approved every year by the Office of Film and Literature Classification headed by Chief Censor Bill Hastings. The Board gets to review only a tiny fraction of this toxic material approved by Hastings and his team. Publications are generally only referred to it following applications under the Act by concerned groups such as the Society (which has a public "watchdog role") or by film distributors seeking to get the film's rating downgraded for commercial reasons (so it can reach a wider audience). In the last 12 months since 1 October 2005, the Board has only issued ten decisions. The Society was the applicant for four of these publications (Irreversible, 9 Songs, Playboy: The Mansion and Visitor Q).

2. The Board has demonstrated its unwillingness to safeguard the interests of children and young persons accessing computer games that teach kids how to promote and succeed in the pornography trade (Playboy: The Mansion). It has demonstrated its incompetence by approving films for young people that teach them how to indulge in illicit drugs, indulge in promiscuous sex, carry out gang rape etc.

3. The Board members are not representative of mainstream New Zealanders, the majority of whom oppose the dissemination of "objectionable" content found in films like Baise-Moi which was banned in Australia. The Board decisions are almost always unanimous in support of a downgrading of a classification restriction (e.g. Closer) or more often unanimous in opposition to any tightening to the existing OFLC classification rating so that the public good can be safeguarded. The liberal "mindset" appears to be so dominant and entrenched in this Board that any dissent by a member reflecting a more conservative viewpoint is squashed.

4. A number of the important decisions issued by the Board president against granting relief to the Society, have been shown to be wrong in law when tested in the High Court (e.g. Irreversible and Ken Park). A number of the Board's decisions have been found to be wrong in law when tested in the High Court and Court of Appeal (e.g. Baise-Moi and Visitor Q). The Courts have strongly criticised the Board in a number of decisions that span four years of its deliberations.

 

28th October  Kissing a Ban on Kissing Goodbye

...maybe

From India Times

Academician Nandini Sardesai, a new member on the Censor Board is hoping to change its conservative outlook. She has just been appointed member on the advisory panel of the Central Board of Film Certification for the Mumbai region.

Excited about her new role, she tells BT, "I'd like to bring in a breath of fresh air in the censor board."

It was rather unexpected, she says. I had met Sharmila Tagore, who is the Censor Board chief, a few months ago. I casually told her that there should be academicians on the Censor Board as well. I guess that's how it happened.

Sardesai's aware that there could be rather conservative views as well from other members on the panel. I might have to face conservative attitudes. I know I'll have to argue it out, battle it out and succeed. If I had to cut a scene I'd rather cut stereotypical scenes in TV serials where women are treated as doormats.

Her take on kissing scenes and exposing in films is also clear: If it fits in with the theme, is relevant to the situation, I would have no objection.

And what did she have to say about the censor board's image among filmmakers of being conservative and too interfering in creative process? That's the impression maybe because the Censor Board still has members who've been there for 20 years and not moved with the times. They have an outdated mindset. Hence the negative view.

Lastly, aren't her views a bit too liberal for the Censor Board? I should be very liberal. So, eventually, a middle path will emerge.

 

22nd October  Censors Strike over Misbehaviour

I couldn't really make head nor tale of this story but one has to wonder what exactly is meant by misbehaving

From New Nation

Members of the Bangladesh Film Censor Board yesterday decided to refrain from watching movies for certification for an indefinite period.

A resolution passed in the board meeting said that they took the decision as a film producer and director misbehaved with them in the premises of the Censor Board.

Secretary of the Censor Board Jasim Uddin Ahmed filed a case with the Paltan Police Station in this regard.

One film director Sharifuddin Khan Dipu, yesterday misbehaved with two members of the board during screening a movie Encounter. The film Censor Board has for the past few month but a brake on vulgar movies by asking for dropping obscene sequences or refusing censor certificate.

The Board members would not watch movies until the problem was responded or punishment was meted out to the offender, sources said.

A member of the Censor Board told The New Nation that a vested group involved in obstructing the board members’ activities as they were trying to stop vulgarity in cinemas.

 

15th October  Age Restrictions On Trial

From The Nation

Moviegoers under the age of 17 may find themselves disappointed when attending the 3rd World Film Festival of Bangkok. They will have to miss some violent and erotic films, because the festival, organised by The Nation, will publish ratings for every film and keep an eye out to ensure that under-aged viewers do not slip in.

Censorship of films (and other art) is controversial in Thailand, with critics charging the cuts negatively affect a film’s artistic value. Director Nonzee Nimibutr suffered from bad censorship on his Jandara, while Pen-ek Rattanarueng, whose Last Life in the Universe won an award at the Venice Film Festival, also suffered badly from censors’ heavy-handed cuts. On the other hand, many Hollywood films depicting violence are screened untouched.

Supposedly concerned with both artistic value and our youth, organisers this year are experimenting with a ratings system that provides guidelines about film content. Based on the US MPAA system, there are five ratings:

  • G – General audience, suited to all ages.
  • PG – Parental guidance suggested; some material may not be suitable for children.
  • PG-13 – Parental guidance strongly cautioned; some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
  • R – Restricted, viewers under 17 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.
  • NC-17 – No one under 17 admitted.

We hope this system provokes Thai society into understanding its real value – that it can protect children from more than just pornography. Most Thais worry about porn but ignore violence. We let our children see violent movies like ‘Kill Bill’ or ‘City of God’ and movies with mature content dealing with religion, war and adultery, said Dusit Silakong, the event’s deputy director, who has been pushing this issue since last year.

To educate the public about censorship, the festival last year displayed information about ratings in other countries in front of the theatres. Postcards were provided for audiences to write down their opinions about film ratings in Thailand and rate the films they saw. They were sent to MPs, to support a bill introducing a film-ratings system. The issue has also been taken up at the communications faculties of Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, Bangkok and Rangsit universities.

In July, the Culture Ministry took over censorship of all video and audio products from the Royal Thai Police. Permanent Secretary Dhipavadee Meksawan said the ministry was managing the task “with honesty and transparency”, and all parties participated.

Officials would work on granting permission to businesses wanting to sell and rent tape cassettes and videos, as well as censoring content, said Dhipavadee. She added that censorship would be undertaken in a positive manner, taking into account social sensitivities and being open-minded, accurate, legal, honest and transparent with full participation of related parties. “This is a new approach for censorship officials.”

Some cultural experts are monitoring developments, because they are worried about how the ministry will give “freedom of expression” to film directors. After two months, the ministry has not approved a single film for release. At present, many filmmakers cannot do much. The authorities seem to disapprove of Thai movies that mention corrupt government officials, prostitutes and drug dealers, said Dusit.

He said censorship might be needed in some cases, such as with movies dealing with religious conflict or the monarchy, but in general a film-rating system was needed. We don’t know whether the American system is best suited to Thai society. But if we don’t try, we’ll never know, he added.

The feedback from the festival may at least provide some sort of direction. The ministry and the local film industry should each keep an eye on the issue.

 

30th September  Censors Work in 'Thai Time'

From The Nation

Film fans may have noticed that not a single new movie has been released on DVD or VCD over the past two weeks.

Following setbacks due to the transfer of the task of censorship from the Culture Ministry to the Royal Thai Police, more than a hundred home entertainment movies are waiting to be censored, resulting in the lack of new releases on the market.

The delays have led to complaints from the body of movie production companies known as The Thai Motion Picture Industry Association (THAMPA), who say that the setbacks are having a devastating effect on the home entertainment business which THAMPA president Worachart Rodthanom reported is worth Bt10 billion per year.

With more than 300 movies released each month, it usually takes just three days for the censorship board at the Interior Ministry’s Royal Thai Police to censor and give authorisation to distributors to release movies onto the market.

However, it has been two weeks since the shift and not a single movie has passed the new censorship team.

Following discussions among its members, THAMPA will today submit a letter to Interior Minister, ACM Kongsak Wantana, to ask the ministry to take on the censorship work again for at least six months to a year to restore the flow of business. It will also suggest the Culture Ministry’s Culture Watch group, who is responsible for the censorship, take guidance from the Royal Thai Police to enable them to work faster.

Worachart added the delay has caused estimated damage to the industry worth Bt100 million during the past two weeks.

Worachart said the hold-up at the Culture Ministry is being caused by the complicated censorship process. He said censorship teams at the Royal Thai Police were able to authorise the home entertainment products for release onto the market immediately and that there was more than one team. However, he said the Culture Watch group is just one team and has to go through three processes before handing the censored products to Ladda Tangsupachai, Culture Watch director and the sole authority who has the last word on censorship.

We’re really suffering, said Kitti Pakdevijit, a telemovie director. When one movie can’t sell, we can’t move on to making a new one because we haven’t got the money. It’s a domino effect.

However, Culture Minister Uraiwan Thienthong, said the work was not being delayed as much as it appeared and that preparations had been underway since March this year and the facilities were already in place. He said the only problem was the censorship officers, mostly police officers, had failed to opt for transfers due to concerns about losing various benefits including their chances of promotion, if they were relocated.

Don’t assume the worst just yet, said Uraiwan. We just need time to adjust, this is new to all of us. She said she understood the delays were causing damage to the industry which is why she had split the working board into two groups and urged them to work faster.

 

20th September  Nobody Listens to Advice Veiled in Threats

Nobody is going to take seriously the arrogant views of someone who thinks they know better than you how to bring up children. Perhaps his views would be better heeded if he suggested advice rather than threat.

From Scoop

The New Zealnd Office of Film and Literature Classification and the Department of Internal Affairs have released a research report showing that the majority of teenagers surveyed had played computer games that cannot legally be supplied to them. The report, Underage Gaming Research, was released today and is based on a survey of 331 secondary school students aged 15 to 17.

The survey was designed and analysed by UMR Research Limited. The two agencies commissioned the report after receiving anecdotal evidence of underage gaming. While the results of the survey cannot be used to show what proportion of young people in the whole country have played restricted games, they indicate that underage access to these games is common.

The survey asked the participants whether or not they had played any of the 26 games listed in the questionnaire. Twenty-four of the games listed were R18 and are therefore illegal to supply to the subjects of the study.

Two of the games, Manhunt and Postal 2, were objectionable and therefore illegal for anyone to possess or supply. The study found that 62% of participants had played at least one restricted or banned game. The Grand Theft Auto series were the most popular games amongst those surveyed. A small number of subjects reported having played the two banned games Manhunt and Postal 2. In almost half of cases, the young people had bought the games themselves while, in a further third of cases, parents had bought them.

The results suggest that some parents and retailers are illegally supplying restricted games to underage players. Chief Censor Bill Hastings said the Classification Office doesn’t ban or restrict games lightly. We do it to protect the greater public good from injury caused by young people playing games developed for an adult audience.

Only about 10 per cent of all games on the market are restricted, meaning that there plenty of games available that are suitable for young people. I encourage parents to take an interest in their children’s game playing and to ensure that they only play games that are legally available to them.

Parents who allow their underage children to play restricted games are breaking the law and doing their children a disservice.
Mr Hastings said. Department of Internal Affairs Deputy Secretary Andrew Secker said that the Department's focus is on the stores selling and hiring games. Censorship Inspectors carry out inspections at between 400 and 500 stores each year.

The industry has suggested that it would be helpful to have point of sale material from the Department about the law. We are producing that and providing it to stores free of charge,  Secker said. We have found that stores responded well when we raised any concerns after inspections.

We have not yet prosecuted any stores but that is an option if problems continue.
The Department of Internal Affairs has prosecuted a New Zealander trying to distribute Manhunt in this country. The Manhunt prosecution seems to have greatly helped with compliance. Since that case, sellers contacted by the Department have cooperated very quickly.

 

19th September  Cleaning the Cultural Arena

Based on an article from the Financial Express

A bill arming the authorities concerned with sweeping powers to supposedly 'clean' the cultural arena by stopping the screening of pornographic and uncensored films and those laced with obscene scenes was placed in the Jatiya Sangsad Sunday.

Information Minister M Shamsul Islam introduced 'The Censorship of Films (Amendment) Bill 2005', saying that violators of the law shall be punished with imprisonment of one year to three years or with fines that may extend to Tk 10,000, or with both. And there may be a further fine that may come to Tk 5,000 for each day if the offence continued after the punitive measures once taken.

A provision of the bill says no suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the government, the Film Censor Board, chairman, member or any other officer of the Board in respect of anything done or intended to be done in good faith under the proposed Act.

Another provision states that no courts shall grant an injunction or make any interim order in respect of any order passed by the Board without giving the Board an opportunity of being heard.

The bill was sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Ministry for further scrutiny, asking the watchdog to submit its vetting report within a month.

 

18th September  Interview with a Censor

From News Today

The problem with censorship is that it is a question of being judgemental, something which can always be debated. Recently the Madras High Court ordered the revoking of the certification of actor-director S J Suryah's New released last year for alleged obscenity.

This has brought the spotlight on the Regional Censor Board in Chennai headed by Babu Rammasami who took charge of the post very recently.

In a chat with News Today, Rammasami shares his views on the controversy surrounding the Censor Board in the wake of the Suryah episode and also the moral responsibility of every film-maker in the industry.

Q: Do you think censorship is necessary for films today in a country like India?

A: Definitely. It is essential. We are a liberal country and there is freedom of expression for everyone as enshrined in the Constitution. Though majority of the film-makers are responsible, there are occasions when the sentiments of an individual or a group is hurt. In such cases, we the Censor Board have to act as watchdogs. In the name of creativity, one should churn out stuff that hurts the sentiments of others. In some western countries there is no censor board. There the trade bodies in the filmdom themselves act as watchdogs. They know their responsibility and act as a censor board themselves.

Q: In contrast to Tamil films, sex and violence are rampant in Hindi movies?

A: No doubt Bollywood churns out more number of high-budget movies with a liberal dose of sex and violence. However, those scenes are not imposed in the movie, rather it is part of the movie. In many Hindi movies, it comes as part of the movie, whereas here it is being imposed for commercial viability. Vulgarity is rampant even in comedy sequences here. There is lack of social etiquette. And, censorship has also got to take into the context and the cultural milieu.

Q: Don't you think small screen badly needs censorship?

A: Though a majority of television channels possess self-responsibility, a few certainly flout the rules. Only on such occasions one has to step in to put things in order. Though rule prevents screening of 'A' certificate films at prime time, several channels have screened them. We have taken note of such violations and lodged complaints with the authorities concerned.

Q: Comment on the recent controversy involving the Censor board and S J Suryah?

A: The issue is pending in court. We thought it was a novel story but gave a 'A' certification to it. However, the Madras High Court has ordered to revoke the certification. Meanwhile, the apex court has stayed the operation for now. Moreover compared to other regions, the awareness and feminist activism is very high here. They had staged protests against the movie. When he (Suryah) approached the board to add a sleazy number in the movie, we denied permission stating that it was obscene.

Q: What would you want to say to directors and producers?

A: Before making a film at a huge cost running to several crores, they should study guidelines issued by the Censor Board. If it is done then all troubles can be avoided. The Censor guidelines are available with all trade bodies and it should be made mandatory for the directors to study them. Ignorance is no way a bliss for film makers.

 

13th September  Vulgar Judicial Pressure

From The New Nation

Some 23 judges of the Judicial Service yesterday visited the Bangladesh Film Censor Board and exchanged views with the members of the Board.

The Judicial officials discussed with the Censor Board members about the activities of the Board, the existing cases filed against the Body, confiscation of films, giving of Censor certificate and its cancellation and Board's initiatives to prevent vulgarity in films.

Chairman of the Bangladesh Film Censor Board and Information Secretary Dr Muhammad Mahbubur Rahman said, All the citizens have some responsibilities to promote healthy cultural activities with a view to sustain the tradition and heritage of the nation.

The Chairman urged all to discharge their own duties from their individual positions to remove vulgarity from the films to save the young generation from moral degradation.

 

10th September  Rating the Rating Board Highly

From Korea Herald

Sex and Lucia, a Spanish film directed by Julio Medem, which was released in Korea last Friday, is full of sexual description. In the sexually explicit movie, a naked man and woman embrace each other and immerse in the sea in their seductive encounter ensued by consecutive scenes of sex.

Moreover, the man's genitals are briefly shown through close-up shots. Despite such scenes, the movie does not seem offending because it, as a whole, depicts a winding, nostalgic journey of a Madrid waitress Lucia (Paz Vega) to reconcile unresolved feelings on the sudden death of her boyfriend.

In the United States, the original uncut version of this film has been initially rated as NC-17. With some modification, the rating has later been eased to R. The Korea Media Rating Board (KMRB) was as lenient as its U.S. counterpart in rating the movie, allowing viewers aged 18 and above to see its uncut version.

It's amazing to watch a movie like this here in Korea without any cut or modification. I couldn't imagine this a couple of years ago. I still remember social jitters raised by Lies by Jang Seon-woo and Too young to die by Park Jin-pyo, said Choi Hyun-sik, who watched  Sex and Lucia on its release.

The "lenient rating" of the movie appears to reflect the recent easing of the KMRB's guidelines for rating films.

When Intimacy, a French film directed by Patrice Chereau, was imported in 2003, it had been prohibited from being shown until some obscene cuts were completely modified, though the film was not as strong as Sex and Lucia. Even last year when Drowning by Numbers, a British movie directed by Peter Greenaway, was opened after sensitive parts of actors' body had been obscured with mosaic, the situation was not so different.

In June, however, The Mother, a British movie directed by Roger Michell which cinematized sexual relations between an old woman in her late 60s and a 40-something man, was allowed to be released with no-cut, no-modification. The movie has clearly shown a sketch drawn by the old heroine, in which sexual intercourse is described. Since the decision, Innocents - The dreamers by Bernardo Bertolucci, L'Ennui by Cedric Kahn and Eros by Michelangelo Antonioni have also been released in sequence in its uncut version.

The KMRB, established to assure the ethics and public spirit of the films, phonogram, video products and so forth, has reviewed both domestic and foreign films, and made recommendations for importing foreign films. While the organization has examined materials containing excessively violent or indecent description that is harmful to public morals, and that may derange the social order, it has been perceived as an outdated censoring organization due to its strict ratings and subsequent measures, and thus considered as a big brother of regulation for a long time.

Now, the Board is taking a step forward to set a new guideline for the two clashing values it pursues to be reconciled: social order and freedom of expression. As Lee points out, these two must exist jointly in harmony.
In consideration of the fact that the classification of age rating is a system protecting our youth from harmful media, I think further discussion is required for the strict ratings on media targeted at youth. However, for adults, I would like to support the development of our media industry by guaranteeing full freedom of expression to people who openly and deliberately manufacture those media. I will do my best to protect our youth while still fully guaranteeing freedom of expression. For this, we will review it carefully and improve it towards a desirable direction.

 

9th September  Appeal for Truth Fails

From The Toronto Sun

As a protest against the U.S. film rating system, Atom Egoyan's Where The Truth Lies may be released "unrated" in America despite the risk of being banned in many theatre chains, producer Robert Lantos said yesterday.  It makes a statement that we are bailing out of the whole ratings system, as opposed to accepting this punitive rating, a bitter Lantos told the Sun from his Toronto office.

That decision came after Egoyan lost an appeal in Los Angeles of an NC-17 rating on his dramatic murder mystery by the MPAA The rating was imposed in August for the film's graphic sexuality, especially in scenes involving co-stars Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth and Rachel Blanchard. The same film, uncut, will be screened at the Toronto filmfest as a Gala on Tuesday.

It's absurd, Lantos said. People should be able to make their own decisions. It's not like it's compulsory viewing. No one has to go. We're talking about making it available. That's it.

An NC-17 rating dooms a film to a commercial purgatory in the U.S. because many theatres refuse to show it and many media outlets refuse to advertise it. The same thing may happen with an "unrated" film, but Lantos said he and ThinkFilm, the distributor, want to make their protest statement.

The bitter irony of the appeal process is that Egoyan, after trimming a few seconds out of several scenes, actually won the vote -- six to four -- but a two-thirds majority is required to overturn an earlier decision on appeal. So we are stuck with the NC-17, Lantos said. This is the end of the road with the MPAA.

The trims Egoyan had made will now be restored, Lantos said. They gave us a long litany of 'offensive' material. We reluctantly took out some things we thought we could live without -- a few seconds here and a few seconds there -- but that wasn't enough. So we'll put everything back in. The upside is that we'll just go out with the original film.

Lantos said U.S. censorship seems to mirror the political climate of the current administration and he considers it repressive.
It is also perverse because you can brutally rape and torture and murder (in a movie) and not get an NC-17. That is the troubling part. It is amazing the difference today between the U.S. and Canada, and it wasn't always thus. In fact, we used to be more conservative 25 years ago. Boy, has the pendulum swung.

 

7th September  Cruel Judgment

From India Times

Performing animals have found a friend in the Bombay high court.

A division bench of chief justice Dalveer Bhandari and justice D Y Chandrachud recently directed that producers of films and television advertisements cannot use animals or birds for shoots without registering them with the Animal Welfare Board of India.

The division bench ordered, The censor board shall in all cases where an animal has been used in the shooting of a film ask the film producer to produce a certificate from the Animal Welfare Board of India certifying that provisions of the Performing Animals (registration) rules have been complied with.

The ruling aims at ensuring observance of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the requirements laid down in the Cinematograph (certification) Rules.

Such a certificate has to be filed before the film is certified for public screening. At present, the censor board simply seeks a declaration from the film producer that the animals were not treated cruelly during shooting.

 

6th September  New Court Wins

From Express India

Adult Tamil movie New had a new lease of life with the Supreme Court on Monday staying the order of the Madras High Court, which had directed revocation of its Censor Board certificate on the ground it promoted vulgarity.

A Bench comprising Justice H.K. Sema and Justice B.N. Srikrishna, hearing a petition filed by the producer of the film, issued notice to Dravidar Kazhagam media secretary A. Arulmozhi, on whose petition the High Court had passed the order on August 5, 2005.

Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi contended the High Court wrongly felt that the movie would influence young minds despite the fact the film was given an ‘A’ certificate restricting its viewership to those over 18 years of age.

The High Court had directed the State Film Censor Board to revoke the certification of New holding that it had been filmed for the purpose of ‘arousing sensual feelings’ of its viewers, especially the young.

 

4th September  Its Only a Story

From Glamsham

Central Board of Film Certification chairperson Sharmila Tagore criticised the brouhaha over the film Mangal Pandey - The Rising that has been slapped with legal notices for distorting facts. It is only a film and a story told in a certain manner... it is not history, so why are people making so much out of it? I don't understand.

Her remarks came shortly after the Delhi High Court issued notices to Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, who played the title role in the film, actress Rani Mukherjee and five others on a suit seeking a stay on the screening of Mangal Pandey - The Rising.

The court asked them to respond by Sep 21 to the suit filed by Raghunath Pandey and Onkarnath Pandey, who claim that they are descendants of Mangal Pandey, the Indian sepoy widely believed to have triggered what is known as India's first war of independence in 1857.

Among other things, the suit alleged that the film had shown Mangal Pandey in a relationship with a nautch girl, which they said was "out of context" and "unhistorical".

They have pleaded for the offending portions to be deleted before the film is screened further.

Tagore said such debates were an attempt to breed sectarianism in a secular country like India.
This will divide the country all the more. We have to be more proactive - it is unfortunate that a film that depicts the hero of the first war of independence should be dragged into so much controversy.

 

1st September  New Developments

From New Kerala

The Tamil film New continues to be mired in problems over charges of obscenity that have caused a sensation in the Tamil film industry.

Actor-director S.J. Suryah and his film earned some respite from the Supreme Court that Tuesday stayed a Madras High Court order to revoke the censor board approval for the film.

But the outcome of the case is being eagerly awaited by an industry that has often toed the thin line between art and obscenity on celluloid.

Released in July 2004, the film was a hit with campus audiences of both sexes.

Women's groups here protested against the film and the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) took the matter to the high court demanding that the Central Board of Film Certification clearance to the movie be revoked.

The high court agreed. On Aug 5, it directed the board to revoke certification for New after expressing concern over "vulgarity" in the film about an eight-year-old boy who in his dreams at night is transformed into a 28-year-old young man.

Suryah was arrested last week for misbehaving with a woman official of the censor board and released on bail. He was accused of throwing a mobile phone at Vanathy Srinivasan after she refused to allow an objectionable song in his film. Srinivasan lodged a police complaint and a court issued a non-bailable warrant against the director. Suryah has been asked by the court to appear before the police daily at 10 a.m. until the next hearing on Sep 6.

In the Supreme Court, the petitioners contended that the film was in the realm of fantasy and should not be construed as obscene.

The apex court, staying the high court order of Aug 5, said the board certification could not be revoked. At best, the high court could order deletion of certain objectionable portions, he said.

The next hearing on the case in the Supreme Court is set for Sep 5.

 

23rd August  Thrusting against the MPAA

From The Guardian

A movie distributor is to take the rare step of appealing against an NC-17 rating for the forthcoming Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth film Where the Truth Lies. ThinkFilm plan to challenge the adult certification, which severely restricts potential audiences in the States.

The murder mystery features a menage á trois scene involving the two actors and Rachel Blanchard which has attracted the censors' ire but is said to be central to the film's plotline. I guess I'm naive. I really had no idea it would be a problem, said director Atom Egoyan. I just heard the deciding factor could be thrusting. Apparently, anything over three thrusts and you're in trouble. Well, nobody told me. I didn't even do covering shots, so there's nothing I can cut away to. This is what you get.

An NC-17 rating means no-one under 18 can legally see the film, and many mainstream cinemas refuse to screen movies with this certificate.

 

23rd August  Visited by Nutters

Visitor Q was awarded an uncut 18 video certificate by the BBFC  in 2004

From Scoop

Press release from the nutters of the Society for the Promotion of Community Values: Court of Appeal directs Board in Classification of Visitor Q

The Film and Literature Board of Review meets this afternoon in order to deliberate on the judgment of the Court of Appeal that set aside the Board’s earlier classification of the Japanese sex-violence film Visitor Q. The Court of Appeal granted the Society’s appeal against the decision of the High Court that had upheld the Board’s R18 classification. It remitted the matter of the classification of the film to the Board for reconsideration. As a consequence, Visitor Q does not currently have a classification and cannot be screened in New Zealand or distributed.

In 2002 the Society applied to the Board for a review of the classification of Visitor Q as it took strong exception to the R18 classification issued by the OFLC). The Society submitted that the film should be classified “objectionable” or be subject to cuts on the basis of its “objectionable” and highly offensive content including: gratuitous depictions of necrophilia, sexual activity involving human excrement, incest, rape, sexual violence, corpse mutilation for sexual gratification, extreme lactation, and graphic violence. It highlighted the degrading, demeaning and dehumanising of women in the film’s gratuitous and vile sexual content. The Board, while conceding that the film contained “graphic and disturbing content,” refused to alter the OFLC classification and considered that the film contained “merit” in that it was “an ambitious attempt to describe the disintegration of family”.

In 2002 the Society succeeded in getting the President of the Board to issue an interim restriction order against the film. Consequently it never screened in the Beck’s Incredible Film Festival in 2002 and has yet to screen in New Zealand.

The recent Court of Appeal decision (CA59/04) - Society For the Promotion of Community Standards Inc [Appellant] v Film and Literature Board of Review [Respondent] – highlighted legal errors in the Board’s classification that had been overlooked by. The Board’s decision was found to be legally “flawed” in its failure to address issues related to the protection of the “public good”. Its serious omissions led the Court of Appeal to state: Without reasons being given [by the Board for its decisions] for what we view as a critical finding of fact, we cannot assess whether the Board has properly construed its role…

The Society has written to the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Hon. George Hawkins, asking him to remove all the current Board members. This call has been made because of the Board’s decisions to release films like Visitor Q, Baise-Moi and Irreversible (all featuring “objectionable” content) into public cinemas for screening to those 18 years of age and older. The Society has also called for the replacement of the Chief Censor, Bill Hastings, and his deputy, Ms Nicolla McCully, on the same grounds.

 

22nd August  New Consequences

From New Ind Press

Sharmila Tagore, chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), will hold discussions with officials of the southern region censor panel in Chennai, in the wake of the recent Madras High Court judgment on the Tamil film, New.

On August 5, the Madras High Court passed an order revoking the certification to the film New. This is the first time that a film is being banned from screening after a successful run.

The court’s observation, terming the SJ Surya film as ‘‘vulgar’’, has shaken officials in the censor board, who fear the imbroglio has shown them in poor light.

According to Babu Ramaswamy, CBFC (Chennai region), the panel members who viewed the film New in Chennai, refused to grant it a certification, prompting Surya to take the film to the Mumbai censor board. At that point of time, Bollywood, which was campaigning to do away with censorship per se, granted certification to his film immediately.

It is to avoid such ‘‘errors’’ in future that Sharmila Tagore is holding a consultative meeting with the officials. There is a feeling among a section of the censor officials that since Mumbai granted the certification, those members also need to be represented in the forthcoming meeting.

Meanwhile, the Tamil film industry is not showing any signs of being affected by the turn of events with regard to New. Many new films, which are either blatantly vulgar or violent, continue to pass by the censors.

 

11th August  Cuts Checkers

From HindustanTimes

The game’s up for filmmakers who make changes in their films after getting the Censor Board’s certificate. Detectives will now watch every reel of released films to catch alterations, if any.

The I&B ministry has decided to bring in a policy for hiring private detectives to check violations of the Indian Cinematograph Act 1952 once films get their certificates from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). Their primary job will be to check interpolations in movies that have been cleared by CBFC, a senior official said.

According to the Act, once the certification is issued, no change can be made in a film without the CBFC's approval. There can't be any insertion even if it is permissible in the Cinematograph Act, the official said. But violations are rampant as the government has no mechanism to check it. Primarily, it is the job of the district administration to keep a check. But they are not technically equipped.

So, the ministry hired private detectives to check violations as a pilot project. And it worked. According to officials, 85 ‘cheating’ cases were detected last year. In some cases, it was found that scenes that should have been deleted on the directions of the Board were being shown, an official said.

The success of the pilot project prompted the ministry to make it permanent. A proposal to engage private detectives is underway in all nine regions, the ministry's annual report says.

 

6th August  8 Years Olds in Charge of Indian Censorship

From New Kerala

Madras High Court today ordered the revocation of the Censor Certificate issued by the Censor Board to the Tamil film New, produced by S J Surya, on grounds of vulgarity.

A division bench comprising Justice M Karpaga Vinayagam and Justice S Ashok Kumar, also directed the Commissioner of Police to ensure that the cases pertaining to two complaints against producer Surya were investigated and report filed immediately before the court.

The complaints related to attempting to assault and abuse of a woman member of the board, who objected to the certification, and another to screening of publicity materials not allowed by the board.

The bench also directed the Chief Secretary to ensure proper implementation of the Cable TV Network (Regulation) Act and the Tamil Nadu (Compulsory Censorship of Film Publicity Material) Act at least in future.

Wondering how the Censor Board certified the film New, which was full of dialogues with double entendre, obscene visuals and vulgarity, catering to the baser instincts of viewers, Ms Arulmozhi filed the petition, seeking to revoke the certificate given to it.

According to her, the theme of the picture was about a child of eight years being put to a scientific test, getting transformed into a youth of 28 years during the night and begetting a child. The board had sanctioned the public exhibition certificate unmindful of the supposed evil influence that it would have on young minds.

 

4th August  Topless Taboo Toppling

From India Daily

Janki Shah’s topless scene in Shaque is causing a stir in India

When she went topless, little did she or her producer Vinod Chhabra ever realized they were about make Bollywood a bonanza for topless scenes! The censor board is close to making a decision and it seems they will approve. If that happens, a series of topless scenes will become norms in Bollywood. She is ready to do more and so are others especially Indian expatriate models.

 

3rd August  Egyptians Dreaming of Rice

Based on an article from Stuff

It is customary in Egypt for films that portray sensitive political issues to be censored and/or banned from screening, and often the Egyptian Censorship Committee does not provide a clear justification for its decisions.

The latest film to be censored is Lailat Suqoot Baghdad (The Night of the Fall of Baghdad), which has been banned from screening.

The film’s production company announced that the film will not been screened due to technical problems, but sources claim that the Censorship Committee banned the film due to the precarious nature of the current political situation in the region.

Sources also claim that the American Embassy in Cairo had opposed some of the scenes, which feature the lead actor Hassan Hussni watching a television interview with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Later on his character goes to bed and dreams of making love to an African American woman.

A member of the Censorship Committee denied that the US Embassy was involved in the committee’s decision not to screen the film, and stressed that the Embassy had not even requested to watch the film:The film makers postponed its screening themselves due to minor alterations.

The plot of the film revolves around a school principal who watches the fall of Baghdad on television and afterwards begins to have nightmares that the same thing will happen to Egypt.

The film is the first this year to face problems with the Censorship Committee.

 

25th July  Grand Theft of Perspective in New Zealand

Based on an article from Stuff

Following revelations that a popular video game contains hidden sex scenes, the Chief Censor is reviewing its current R18 classification.

Chief Censor, the crazed Bill Hastings said the game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, was classified R18 - the highest age restriction possible - in 2004.

The classification was given because of the game's depiction of crime and violence, but at the time, the sexual content was not known. The extra scenes can be activated by downloading additional software to unlock codes already existing in the game.

I have decided to use my power to call in the game for classification now that these hidden scenes have come to light he said. While it was possible the restriction would not change, censors needed to be sure the current classification was "still appropriate", Hastings said. The process is expected to take two weeks.

If the classification changes, distributors will be required to re-label the game. While the chief censor had occasionally reclassified films, this was the first time he had used his power to recall a game, he said.

 

12th July  Such a Serious Crime Yet it can be so Hard to Tell

Based on an article from IOL

Red-faced officials at the South African Film and Publication Board, who blundered by endorsing the release of a movie with under age participants, are desperately trying to recall copies of the film.

But their efforts come too late, as the film, ironically titled It's Just Wrong, has sold like "hot cakes" since its release in May.

An outraged senior board member said the blunder had caused huge embarrassment to his organisation. And the fact that we as the board, in conjunction with the department for home affairs, launched the 'Unite against Child Pornography' campaign in Port Elizabeth early last month, has made situation even more humiliating. It just goes to show that the board does not exercise due diligence, he said on condition of anonymity.

He lambasted the three examiners who passed the movie in the first place and called for stricter criteria in selecting future examiners. The board stopped the further sale and distribution of the movie in June after receiving numerous complaints from the public.

An independent review panel, chaired by Durban academic Karthy Govender, was then asked to rule on whether or not the movie constituted child pornography. Govender said the review panel spent last weekend deliberating over the movie before ruling on Monday, without elaborating, that it was a child pornography film. But this ruling has come too late, the board official said.

I have heard the movie sold like hot cakes from the day it was released. So there are plenty of copies out there that can be pirated and sold on the black market. I just can't understand why the board allowed inexperienced examiners to pass the movie in the first place, he said, claiming he was away when the board endorsed the film's release.

According to the Child Care Act, child pornography is the depiction of any image of any person under the age of 18, or who is depicted or appears to be under 18, engaged in sexual conduct.

When classifying a movie the board is required by law to report child pornography to the police. But for some strange reason this movie, which also clearly depicts young girls on its DVD cover, was classified and passed, the board member said. If the name of the film and the picture of the girls on the cover was not enough to raise doubts, then the movie itself left no doubt that underage girls starred in it. One can see from their appearance, mannerisms and even dialogue that they are young girls. I just feel that the board made a boo-boo by passing this film and am not surprised by the review panel's ruling.

This is the first time we have had to recall a film but it should not have gone this far in the first place. One of the core functions of the board is to protect children but it failed to do so in this instance. The board seems to be getting slack because we never had a problem like this before, he said.

 

4th July  New Zealand Blames Games

...And I am sure the crime rate will dramatically tumble once restrictions are imposed

From Stuff

New Zealand's censorship office has written to the country's internet cafes, hire shops and games retailers warning them not to supply under-age children with restricted video games. The Film and Literature Classification Office issued the warning last month, cautioning them that penalties for supplying minors with restricted games include fines and imprisonment.

It's the first such letter the office has sent. While the agency says it doesn't know the extent of any problems, acting information manager Deborah Gordon says it has received "quite a lot of complaints from parents".

A recent study by research firm UMR found 62 per cent of 330 teenagers claimed to have played at least one game they were too young to buy or rent. Seven per cent said they had played Manhunt, a game banned in New Zealand.

The Internal Affairs Department polices the rules laid out by the office, and carries out checks at about 500 retailers and hire shops to ensure classification stickers are properly displayed and that staff, particularly part-timers, are properly aware of the rules. The biggest issue is actually people over the restricted age buying them and supplying them to people under age, says department spokesman Vincent Cholewa. A lot of parents are not aware of the responsibility they have, and a lot aren't aware of the nature of the games.

Parents or older siblings supplied the restricted games to almost half of teenagers studied by UMR, and 75 per cent said their parents knew they were playing restricted games. If many parents sat down beside their kids and watched them play the games for half an hour they'd be horrified at what they saw, claims Cholewa. Parents who buy restricted games for their underaged children are technically breaking the law, though Cholewa says the department won't be prosecuting them.

Games have to be sent to the censor's office for classification only if they're "likely to be restricted" - that is, if they have violence or have been restricted in Britain or Australia. If a game was cleared by the Australian authorities, it doesn't need to be rated in New Zealand. Online games hosted on New Zealand-based websites must also be rated by the office, and if restricted shouldn't be played by minors.

The office has put age restrictions on 270 games and banned two, Manhunt and Postal 2. Most commonly games are restricted to players above 13, 16, or 18. Another "mature" rating recommends games for players over 16, but it is not a legal restriction.

 

30th June  Shameful Politicians Rapped

From DW-World

Some German rappers have been making the headlines for their very politically incorrect lyrics. The government's media watchdog for youth has censored several CDs, sparking a debate on just how far censorship should go.

They sing about the ghettos of Berlin, about drugs, sex and violence. German rappers from the underground label Aggro Berlin like Sido or Bushido relay the realities of their neighborhoods.

But while their lyrics may simply be a mirror of their lives, the German government's Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPjM) considers these songs a threat to young people. We placed two Aggro CDs on our index at the end of May and there are several more we are processing, Petra Meier, BPjM's deputy head, told DW-WORLD.

The "index" is a list of media considered harmful or dangerous to minors. This is the case if they tend to endanger their process of developing a socially responsible and self-reliant personality, BPjM stated. Once a CD is on the index, it can no longer be sold to minors. The majority of CDs we are examining contain music with right wing extremist lyrics, but we are increasingly dealing with German rap music, too.

The BPjM ruled that the indexed songs significantly harmed women's dignity and portrayed inhuman behavior. Indeed, the texts glorify sexual violence, drugs and the perverse degradation of women.

The lyrics by certain German rappers, in particular those from the Aggro label in Berlin, are becoming increasingly more pornographic, racist and glorified violence, Monika Griefahn, chairperson of the parliamentary committee on culture and the media, said in a statement earlier this month.

Griefahn said that radio stations and music television channels like Viva and MTV also had to better exercise their obligation of control. And in a typically shameful statement: Breaking taboos and portraying extremes are important stylistic devices of art, which rightly belong to the freedom of expression.... BUT the protection of youth and the right of personal honor required clear restrictions.

She added, this kind of rap also sheds a poor light on German music.

Despite official criticism, fans see Aggro rappers as the German answer to US star 50 cent and his consorts. According to the label, their bands are simply rapping about the social realities in the high-rise ghettos. Whether it's financial problems, club nights, idol worship or anal intercourse, Sido feeds from a tremendous diversity of topics," Aggro said on its Web site.

Roland Seim, a sociologist specializing in censorship, said that although prohibited things may not be particularly interesting, they become so through banning them.
This is especially the case in many youth cultures, which are supposed to be shielded from all sorts of influences. Forbidden areas in particular appeal to them as minors, to find out something they're actually not supposed to.

 

26th June  Palindromes Stays Adults Only

The film was passed uncut by the BBFC with a 15 certificate

From Refused Classification

A 3-member panel of the Australian Classification Review Board has determined, in a unanimous decision, that the film, Palindromes, directed by Todd Solondz, is correctly classified R 18+ with the consumer advice, “Abortion and paedophile themes.”

In the Classification Review Board’s opinion, Palindromes warrants an R 18+ classification because the sex scenes are high in impact, not because of their filmic treatment, but because they relate to under age and paedophile sex.

The 13 year-old character, Aviva, is depicted having sex with teenage boys and an adult male, Classification Board Convenor, Maureen Shelley said. These scenes are seen to normalize under-age sex, including that of adults with minors, contrary to community concerns about these matters.

R 18+ is a restricted classification. Persons aged under 18 years cannot be admitted to films classified R 18+.

 

19th June

 Australian Censor Decision is Tat

The film was passed uncut by the BBFC with a 15 certificate

From Refused Classification

The R18+ rating awarded to Palindromes on May 26th 2005 is being appealed. Madman Entertainment were the company that initially had the film classified.

The Classification Review Board has received an application to review the classification for the film, Palindromes, directed by Todd Solondz. Palindromes was classified R18+ with the consumer advice, “Adult themes”, by the Classification Board on 6 June 2005.

The Classification Review Board will meet on Wednesday 22 June 2005 to consider the application. The Classification Review Board’s decision and reasons for its decision will appear on the OFLC website once the review has been finalised.

The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. Meeting in camera, it makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. The Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

 

19th June

 Censorship Under Wraps

From The Taipei Times

Two weeks before the Measure Governing the Rating Systems of Publications and Pre-recorded Video Programs goes into effect, censorship opponents yesterday reiterated their opposition to the regulation. They called on the Government Information Office (GIO) to establish a review system and communicate with publishers and civil groups if it insists on enforcing the regulation.

The GIO promised to hold public hearings to discuss the issue with publishers and other concerned people," said Wu Min-hsuan  spokesperson for the Coalition Against the Pseudo-Rating Regulation. However, it has never discussed the issue with us, Wu said.

In order to find better solutions to the issue before the regulation takes effect, the coalition and legislators held a public hearing on May 17, inviting publishers and human-rights groups to share their opinions. The hearing concluded that the GIO should establish a review committee made up of publishers, retailers, writers and childrens-rights advocates, to replace the present Publication Appraisal Foundation. The hearing also said that the GIO should conduct a thorough review of the current rating system -- and hold off implementing the new regulation until the review reaches a conclusion.

Chu Wei-cheng, a professor of English at National Taiwan University, said that since Taiwan is a democratic country, the government should not regulate or control the media and publications: The right to lead a review system or carry out regulations should be granted to civil groups. Besides, the rating regulation, which violates the public's freedom to read, is absurd and should be abolished.

According to the rating regulation, which was suppose to take effect on Dec. 1 last year, restricted publications must be sealed and carry a label on the cover reading R rated: Not available for those 18 or under. Violators face fines of between NT$100,000 (US$3,184) and NT$500,000. Serious offenders can be forced to suspend publication for up to a year.

After a deluge of criticism from the publishing industry, which described the rating system as "harsh" and "vaguely defined," the GIO suspended the issuance of fines for violations until July 1. It also reversed its earlier decision that "R"-rated books would be banned from exhibition. However, labels and seals are still required for those books.

 

16th June

 Smoking the Peace Pipe

From The Indian Express

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry today endorsed Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss’s call for a ban on smoking on screen but got him to agree to exempt films already made or those that dealt with social messages on smoking. The ban will be effective from October 2 — to coincide with Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary — after amendments to the Rules under Tobacco Control Act, 2003 are carried out.

At a meeting that lasted for over an hour, I&B Minister Jaipal Reddy supported Ramadoss but managed to convince him against running scrolls cautioning against smoking in old films and live sporting events on TV that endorse tobacco products. The minister said that barring such exceptions, no scenes of smoking will be allowed in films made after October 2. The Censor Board will have to follow the rules.

Reddy said the need to de-glamorise and discourage smoking on screen could not be disputed. His ministry had dashed off a letter to the health ministry on June 9, pointing out technical difficulties in implementing the ban. These included running scrolls on old celluloid films, period films showing the lifestyle of nawabs using a hookah or characterisations of historical personalities, such as Winston Churchill. The letter had also said that it would be impossible implement masking of brand names on sports events shown live. The Health Ministry has agreed to these points. In such cases, an inter-ministerial committee, comprising health and I&B ministries, will look into the merits of such films on a case-to-case basis, Reddy pointed out.

In fact, to make foreign channels beaming their content within the country to follow the ban, Reddy said a downlinking policy framework was being readied. The guidelines will require these channels to set up registered offices in the country and follow the laws of the land.

Justifying the ban, Reddy said,
there was always a ban on smoking on screen, I am only tightening the rules.

 

8th June  Running Rings Around the Censors

Based on an article from The New Nation

The Bangladesh Government has decided to file criminal cases against the producers, directors and artistes involved in the making of obscene films, it is learnt. Bangladesh Film Censor Board has written to the Ministry of Information for filing cases against filmmakers.

A meeting in this regard was held recently between the Information Minister M Shamsul Islam and Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Barrister Moudud Ahmed, sources said.

The Censor Board could not take legal actions against the so-called obscene filmmakers, as it has no panel lawyers.
If the Censor Board files any complaint against any film, it undergoes a long process—from the Information Ministry’s legal Advisor –Law Ministry’s solicitor—to Attorney General office and than move to High Court.

To finalise proceedings against supposedly obscene films, it takes a minimum of six months, as a result obscene filmmakers take the advantage of stay orders from the courts to screen their films in movie houses. A section of filmmakers are exhibiting racy films in movie houses flouting Censor Board certification.

Information Ministry has proposed to the Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry for amendment to the existing Film Censor Act 1963. It also proposed to modernise Censor Act Code, to empower officers of the Censor Board and District Information officers to seize obscene films, appoint lawyers and increase financial support to the Board.

 

7th June  Repression Common to All Media

From Backstage.com

In what Australia's censorship agency the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) claims to be a world first, films, videos and computer games marketed and sold in Australia will now carry the same classification markings, the agency announced Monday.

The new system comes after years of discussion about how to deal with the different demands that new media options present to consumers. The new system, sanctioned through legislation by federal and state governments, replaces two codes previously applied separately to games, films and videos. The OFLC said the failure of a classification system for computer games introduced in 1994, which did not make an impact on consumers, had in part prompted the change. The gaming industry has long been lobbying for a change to the classification system.

The new system will offer six color-coded classifications. Advisory categories are a green G symbol for general exhibition, a yellow PG for parental guidance, and a blue M for mature audiences. A red MA15+ indicates that a parent or guardian must accompany anyone below 15 years of age. Black labels for restricted, adult only material are differentiated as R18+ for "high impact" content and X18+ for material containing actual sex between consenting adults.

We live in an increasingly borderless world of entertainment, where the delivery technology is rapidly converging, OFLC director Des Clark told reporters. It makes sense that people should be able to use one system to become informed about classification of entertainment, particularly when the traditional ways in which we are used to receiving our entertainment are so rapidly changing and evolving.

Clark noted that four million households in Australia now have gaming consoles and said that the increasing convergence between the movie and gaming industries meant it made sense to apply the same standard across all media.

The move will primarily affect distributors and exhibitors but Clark insists there are no extra costs involved in the transition in terms of gaining classifications.

We need to be clear about classification across all media, said Richard Payten, joint general manager of film distributor the Becker/Dendy Group. Anything that gives a consistent message and takes away confusion can only be considered a good thing.

Despite the introduction of the new system, over-the-top violent or sexually explicit computer games are not going to find their way any easier onto Australian shelves. The government has elected to continue its policy of denying classification to games that would warrant adult-only classification, typically those featuring graphic sex and violence. As a result these games will remain unavailable -- at least legally -- to Australian consumers.

Attorney General Phillip Ruddock said at the news conference that the highest classification available to games would be the red MA15+. Ministers were not satisfied that if you brought those (X- and R-rated) games into the home that children could not access them, said Ruddock of the decision.

A spokeswoman for the OFLC said only four games had been denied classification over the last three years, including Narc and Man Hunt. The first and third of the Grand Theft Auto franchise also were deemed adult content until the developers modified them for the market, making them available in Australia with an MA15+ rating.

Clark added that the OFLC's overriding concern regarding computer games was to provide a safe world for our children. The new rules are effective immediately although they will be retrospective for recent releases.

 

4th June  Butt Ends of Censorship

From The Hindu

Indian Censor Board chief Sharmila Tagore on Friday came out against the way the government went about its decision to ban smoking in films, terming it as a decision taken in haste and very unaesthetic in taste.

No self-respecting Director will like it, Tagore told PTI, contending that the film industry or the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) should have been consulted on the matter.

Even as she supported the intent behind the decision, Tagore, who has shot off a letter to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry putting "her side of the story", said that the decision is "very difficult to implement" in its present form: Although I support the intent, it is very difficult to implement, especially when we have foreign movies also coming into the country.

She said that the government should give the industry more time on the matter: Applying it from August 1 is very difficult, especially for films which have been completed or on the verge of completion. Something like September or November would be practical to implement.

On May 31, the government announced its decision to ban screening of tobacco products in movies or tele-serials from August 1. The six provisions, introduced in the existing laws, require mandatory display or prominent scroll containing health warning when use of tobacco products is shown in all the movies or in tele-serials irrespective of the timeframe they were shot.

Commenting on the provision requiring mandatory display of prominent scroll containing health warning when use of tobacco products is shown, Tagore said it was very unaesthetic and no self-respecting director will like it. They are trying to make a work of art. This kind of a scroll is something disturbing.

She suggested alternative methods to highlight the issue. After the display of the Censor certification, the warning message can be displyed prominently and can be repeated after interval. Also, the film stars can make an appearance, saying they don't support smoking even though they have done so in the film.

She admitted that films had a big impression on young minds and that smoking was not the only way to build a character. However, she said that the method of implementation should be thrashed out after involving all the stakeholders, which includes film-makers.

 

16th May  Sikhs Seek Ban

From The Panthic Weekly

Open letter to Chair of the Indian Censor Board:

I write to you to express concern regarding the film, Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal!. As you may be aware, Sikhs all over the country are agitated over the contents of the movie and the gross, negligent and deliberate misuse of the Sikh war cry and greeting, Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal! .

A large number of Sikh organisations, from all over the world, have protested the contents of the movie as well as the use of the Sikh slogan as the title of the movie. The producers and directors of the movie have shown scant regard for the sentiments of the Sikh people.

The promos of the movie, as seen on many Satelllite TV channels do not leave much to the imagination of the film goer. Scantily clad actresses intermixed with the use of a Sikh slogan is just not acceptable. I do not need to point out to you what you and the members of the Censor Board have already seen.

We strongly believe that the Central Board of Film Certification has not applied its mind while certifying this movie. This movie violates the guidelines of the Censor Board as well as judgments of the Supreme Court of India.

The guidelines issued under Section 5B of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 are very clear. This section says that a film shall not be certified for public exhibition, if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the States, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence.

I would like to inform you that this film will incite the Sikhs to react violently when the movie is released anywhere in India or anywhere in the world for that matter. The Sikhs may be small in numbers but they are a proud people and any interference or jugglery of their religious sentiments by any person, by word or movie, will not tolerated. We love and respect our religion and any misrepresentation of the same is sacrilegious and will be dealt with as such.

If Bollywood has chosen to debase society, it is welcome to go to any depths, but as far as the Sikh people are concerned, we have had enough. Bollywood has been tampering with the Sikh image through word and image for a long time. It is now time to stop this nauseating trend. If having a Sikh prime minister in India has not changed the mindset of the Indian filmmaker, then he/she will have to face the ire of the Sikh people.

We have appealed to the Sikh people all over the world to hold protest demonstrations on 11th May 2005. In Panjab and the rest of India, Sikhs will denounce the Information and broadcasting ministry for its utter negligence and will burn the posters of the movie as well as symbolically burn the effigy of the CBFC and the Information and Broadcasting ministry. We are also urging the distributors of the movie to keep away from the movie.

I urge you to take immediate steps to stop the release of the movie, Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal!. The Censor Board should immediately have a member each from all the ethnic minorities so that henceforth nobody plays with our sentiments.

 

14th May  Reviewing the Review Board

From Refused Classification

New Appointments to the Australian Classification Review Board

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock recently announced the appointments of Gillian Groom and Anthony Hetrih, and the re-appointment of Kathryn Smith, as members of the Classification Review Board.

The Classification Review Board is responsible for reviewing, upon application, Classification Board decisions regarding films, publications and computer games on behalf of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.

The Review Board is comprised of individuals so that, as a whole, it is broadly representative of the Australian community. Review Board members, as statutory appointees, endeavour to make decisions, applying the classification tools, which reflect as objectively as possible what they consider to be the standards of reasonable adults in the community, rather than the personal standards of members.

Mrs Groom is a Consultant Occupational Therapist and University Tutor from Tasmania. She is the mother of six adult children. She has been involved in many professional associations, the arts, sporting and charity organisations.

Mr Hetrih, the father of a young child, is from Victoria. He is a writer specialising in technology and computer games. He has a background in marketing and communications, and has a demonstrated and long-standing professional interest in the effects of computer games on children. He is currently researching for a guidebook for parents on the subject of computer games.

Mrs Smith is a mother of three from New South Wales. She has lived in Tasmania for most of her life, but currently lives in Sydney. She has worked as a social worker, TAFE teacher and Employee Assistance Counsellor. Mrs Smith is currently at home caring for her family and studying part-time. This is Mrs Smith’s second term on the Classification Review Board, having been a member since June 2001.

The Classification Review Board is a part-time Board that meets in Sydney at the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

 

4th May  Wildlife in India

From Now Running

Bollywood's latest venture Kaal has ruffled the features of animal activists and the apex court for alleged violation of animal rights.

The Supreme Court's notice to super star Shah Rukh Khan and filmmaker Karan Johar on a petition alleging that their co-produced film Kaal  violates the Wildlife Protection Act among others is not the first time the Hindi-film industry has been accused of breaching animal rights.

Former central minister and environment activist Maneka Gandhi informed the court that the film was shot in the Corbett National Park in Uttaranchal without proper permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden as required under the Wildlife Act. Besides, wild animals were used in the film.

At the movie's premier Soham said: Wildlife has always been neglected by Indian filmmakers, so I thought why not make a film on it. There are hardly any tigers left in India despite the fact that the tiger is our national animal.

The film, however, breaks all rules. The opening shot features actor John Abraham with a python, a clear violation. The film goes on to portray game hunting as common and rampant. The film also to an extent allegedly reinforces the myth that tigers hunt humans.

According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and Performing Animals Rules it is mandatory for anyone using an animal for the purpose of entertainment - to which admission is charged - to apply to the government for permission, stating exactly what the animal will be required to do.

A copy of the permission certificate has to be submitted to the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI). Even if permission to use animals in films is granted, it is still punishable to inflict any manner of pain or suffering on them. One also has to pay for an inspector to be present whenever an animal is used to ensure no cruelty is done.

None of Bollywood's 14 listed animal suppliers have registered themselves with the AWBI. This registration is compulsory under the Performing Animals Act. We have written to all of them that they are on the wrong end of the law, says activist Anuradha Sawhney.

 

27th April  Censors Should Be Wrapped in Plastic

From Index on Censorship

Censors at South Africa’s Film and Publication Board have, on appeal, overturned an earlier ruling that GQ, FHM and Cosmopolitan magazines be sold only to people over the age of 18.

Complainant Robyn Fudge, of Fish Hoek, Cape Town, took the magazines to the board arguing that their contents were pornographic, objectified women and were unsuitable for children. On 23 February the Board's classification committee ruled that the magazines were not pornographic but that they should be wrapped in plastic and sold to over 18s only. The magazines appealed and the board's review board ruled on 19 April that they could be sold to readers of any age.

It is great that we live in a country that protects freedom of expression, Vanessa Raphaely of South Africa’s Cosmopolitan magazine told the Mercury newspaper. Writing about sex is part of what we do. It is not pornographic, nor harmful. We deliver good advice.

 

24th April  Gored by the Review Board

From Refused Classification

In what must rank as one of the more dumb censorship decisions of recent years, the Review Board has confirmed the RC rating awarded to The Gore Gore Girls .

Three members of the Review Board viewed the film. Two voted for it to be banned. The third member got it correct

The minority view was that the film should be classified R18+ as the impact was no more than high, due to the unrealistic, “schlock-horror” nature of the special effects.

As mentioned last update, there is absolutely no way that this contains stronger material than any of the films that the OFLC have happily awarded R18+ ratings over the past couple of years.

 

23rd April  13 Years at the Censors

From New Ind Press

A Tamil film on Rajiv Gandhi still awaits the Censor's nod after 13 years under scrutiny

Kuttra-Patrikai (chargesheet) began as a fictional story on the life and death of a politician but ended up embracing the real, after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Today, the film — made 13 years ago — awaits clearance from the Censor Board.

The film has been tossed around by different censor authorities. And the filmmaker had been asked to make 67 cuts in his two-and-a-half-hour film for a certification. He had refused. Now, the wait has taken its toll — filmmaker Selvamani has lost interest.

Ironically, the film was cleared by the Film Certification Apellate Tribunal (FCAT) and stamped with an Adult certificate in 1993. But with the Chennai Censor Board moving court protesting the contents of the film, final release remained a distant dream.

The film, with former Censor Board chairperson Anupam Kher, whose tenure was cut short by the UPA Government, playing the role of Rajiv, is once again with the FCAT. The court has directed the FCAT to examine the matter, sources from the Chennai Censor Board said on Thursday.

The film ran into trouble after its contents were found to be too close to the actual assassination of the former prime minister. Director R K Selvamani says, When we started making the film in the beginning of 1991, the film was about the assassination of a political leader. By mid-May, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi happened and suddenly fiction seemed too close to reality. We added elements of truth to our fictional story and included characters with names like Sivarasan, Dhanu (the human bomb), Nalini after going through the police files. Selvamani says the contents of the film may be disturbing to all political parties

The Long Wait

  • Kuttra-Patirakai is submitted to the Chennai Censor Board in early May 1992 for a certification.
  • Certification rejected, no reasons given, says filmmaker Selvamani
  • Following a request from Selvamani, the film is sent to the Revising Committee
  • Sent to a second Revising Committee in 1993
  • Committee asks filmmaker to execute 67 cuts. He refuses.
  • Film Certification Appellate Tribunal clears the film with an Adult Certificate in 1993
  • Chennai Censor Board moves court
  • Matter rests with the Tribunal now

 

19th April  India Comes of Age

From New Ind Press

Anupam Kher's attempt to change the Censor Board Guidelines will soon take shape.

The Information and Broadcasting ministry has asked V.K. Sharma, chief officer of the Delhi Appellate Tribunal to draft at least 40 proposed changes that will lead to an amendment in The Cinematographic Act 1952.

A ministerial source reveals that from now on, more than six kinds of certificates will be issued depending on the subject and genre, a departure from the current U, U/A and A certificates.

He adds that specifics such as age will also be mentioned on the certificate. The extent of nudity and skin show in films will be clearly defined, so as to avoid any kind of manipulation. Instead of vague hints, the rules will now state that for a film certified for Unrestricted viewing (U), evaluation will be done on the basis of theme, violent content, language and sex. If there is sex, the rules will state that it should not be gratuitous, language should be tempered without double entendre and there is no nudity.

For films with adult content, the rules will state that the scenes should not be based on perverted sexual practices. Officials admit that there will be film-makers who will experiment with unusual themes, but say the rules will take care of the changing face of Indian cinema.

To bring about transparency in the Censor Board, the composition of the board members will be restructured. Political appointees will be kept to the minimum.

Also, as Kher had suggested during his term as Censor Board chief, there will be student representation on the board.

 

18th April  Indian Survey

From New Ind Press

An analysis of movies produced from 1998 to 2004 undertaken by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has revealed that the number of adult films has steadily increased over the years.

While in 1998 nearly 72% of the movies were granted the ‘U’ Certificate by the Censor Board, by the end of 2004, only 38% percent of the films were declared to be ideal for family viewing.

The CBFC also conducted a survey among students of 50 colleges and members of consumer groups to ascertain their views on vulgarity and obscenity in films. Based on the responses, the CBFC prepared a ranking of gestures that were considered to have demeaned women. The 11-point ranking runs thus: close focus on breasts; exposure of breast cleavage; breasts dashing; jiggling of breasts while running or dancing; breast jerks of swing; close focus on navel; lip to lip kissing; pelvic jerk while dancing; man and woman rolling over each other; close up shot of the back; and very short trousers.

The CBFC report observed: It is better to delete all these gestures in all the films except that in ‘A’ films, where we can be more liberal. It is generally considered that in ‘A’ film, one has to be as liberal as possible. It is a settled principle that adults should be able to see and hear what they choose to. Adults have enough discretion not to get carried away by the films they see. A high number of the respondents felt the Censor Board sometimes allowed scenes that were considered to be vulgar, as it did not want to antagonise producers.

An overwhelming majority of the respondents said that the dresses of the heroines shown in the movies are indecent. Of those surveyed, 45% of the woman felt double meaning dialogues should be deleted and nearly 90% of the male and female categorically stated the visuals of women smoking and drinking should not be allowed.

 

17th April  Narked at Australian Censorship

From Refused Classification

The Australian censors, the OFLC, have now banned the computer game Narc. This makes it the first game of 2005 to be Refused Classification.

Even though the distributors of Herschell Gordon Lewis' The Gore Gore Girls had missed the 30 day appeal period, a review will now go ahead as: In this instance, the Review Board considered the out of time application as a preliminary matter, and determined to exercise its discretion and proceed with the application."

In 2004 the OFLC saw fit to award R18+ ratings to films such as Maniac, Last House on the Left, and Ichi the Killer. All are much more extreme than anything you can find in The Gore Gore Girls.

This is a film that even the notorious British censors passed uncut in February 2002. Compare this with the treatment they gave Maniac (May'02 cut by 58sec), Last House on the Left (July'02 cut by 31sec), and Ichi the Killer (Nov'02 cut by 3min 15sec). The OFLC passed all of these uncut!

Ichi the Killer even contains some nipple-slicing violence far more brutal than the comparable scene in The Gore Gore Girls. So, if on Monday it doesn't get its rating dropped to R18+, then it proves that nothing has changed. Our rating system is really just as arbitrary as ever.

 

15th April  Gore Gore Girls Gored

From Refused Classification

Herschell Gordon Lewis' The Gore Gore Girls has been refused classification (ie banned) in Australia. 30 days have elapsed since the decision so there will be no appeal.

This video was passed uncut by the BBFC in 2002

 

14th April  Censors Under Fire

Based on an article from News Today

Sleaze and violence in Indian celluloid is not a new trend. Yet, when the discourse on it is sought to be pushed into the political domain, it raises suspicions. But the idea of picking on the Censor Board alone for passing films with scenes of violence and sex looks a rather misplaced one.

Indeed the situation in tinsel town is such that film producers, in a bid to increase ticket sales, are appealing to that racier side of public opinion. In that way, there is nothing unexpected in political parties picking up the cudgels against the perceived excessive blood-letting and over exposure of female anatomy.

But the manner in which the political parties are now trying to dictate terms on movie-making it looks to be more of an attempt to wield control over the cash-rich film industry.

It is the people who decide the success or failure of a film and no producer will every attempt to make a film that will not be watched. But attacking the censors or finding fault with the government for the quality of films produced in the State is, to put it mildly, barking at the wrong tree.

Recent censorship decisions that made the news in India:

  • The Censor board Examining Panel has denied a clearance to Kallol Sen's Kabhi Socha Bhi Na Tha. Shocked at the explicit way of discussing sexuality the board refused the clearance. However, the director says that the Censors refused to give him a reason for this ban: I could have toned down the offensive scenes. He adds that he film has shock value because it dares to address the social prudes who keep mum on anything to do with sexuality. The film is neither titillating and it doesn't degrade any section or gender of society. As a last resort Sen plans to approach the Delhi Tribunal and also appeal to the Censor board chairperson Sharmila Tagore.
     
  • Kamal Haasan's Mumbai Express had to jump hurdles in getting the film cleared from censor board members. It was given the `U' certificate but only after Kamal Haasan was told to cut one full song, As the film is in digital format, he got a special permission from the Central Board of Film Certification Chairman, Sharmila Tagore, to screen the film in the same format. (Normally a film will be screened to the censor board members only in the analogue format). But the members objected to a particular song. Kamal Haasan apparently argued with the members that the song was needed as it depicted `Lust' and `Greed' with two young women narrating the entire story. The members said they would approve it only with an `Adults only' certificate that too with certain cuts. As the time was short for the film's release scheduled for April 14, he half heartedly agreed to do away with the song.
     
  • Deepak Tijori had written to censor board chief Sharmila Tagore complaining about the "mental torture" he went through over getting his film Khamosh cleared. He said that Tagore did not bother to watch the film, and that the guidelines in use date from 1958. He continued: People who are judging the movies of this nation are a bunch of illiterates with no knowledge of cinema, so one can't even make them understand. Tijori maintains that the cuts were unwarranted as the characters in the lovemaking scene were completely covered and the bathing scene showed a partially clad Rakhi. He is also irked by the fact that his film has been awarded 'A' certificate even after the cuts.
     
  • The Censor Board has refused to pass Wounded by Krishna Mishra, objecting to the excessive use of abuses in it. So Mishra and Parihar called a press conference, where they screened the film’s CD. If Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen, with 250 abuses, could be palatable for the audience, why is the Censor Board causing hurdles in my film, which has only 50 abuses,’said Mishra. According to Mishra, their film was screened before the Censor Board in January. The Board reportedly told Mishra to remove all the abuses if he wanted to get the film passed. Intent on not making any changes, Mishra has sent the film to the [appeals] Tribunal, where it has been lying for the last two months. Wounded plays in the Leicester Film Festival

 

26th March  Gay vs Repressed

Based on an article from Asia One

Manazine is a gay lifestyle magazine featuring music, entertainment news and fashion. But it also has pictures of near naked men embracing. Its chief editor said the magazine is intentionally pushing the boundaries.

Not surprisingly, the Singapore censors are not impressed. The subscription-based bi-monthly, had its publishing licence reduced from one year to six months. That was in August last year. Now, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has extended Manazine's latest licence for only three months. Manazine's licence expired on 10 Feb, and the renewal was given only one month later.

Cheong Tyng-Tyng of the MDA said: The magazine has failed to comply with content guidelines, with its continued promotion of the homosexual lifestyle and depictions of nudity. She said Manazine's original permit was reduced from one year to six months as it was found to contain elements that promote homosexuality. MDA had also advised Manazine to moderate homosexual content

In the light of easy access via shop retail, Manazine has since adopted a subscription-based system for distributing the magazine.'

But the publisher and chief editor, Arjan Nijen Twilhaar, is not concerned. He said he set out to be provocative and knew the magazine's publishing licence was at risk. Twilhaar had pumped in about $150,000, with a silent partner, to start the magazine more than a year ago. He said that when the magazine was first published, he used pictures of men with their lower half covered. Then he got bolder.
In the latest issue, pictures of nude French rugby players were used.

Twilhaar said this got the magazine into trouble with MDA. So why push the boundaries? Twilhaar said: 'One of the first few complaints was about Beatrice Chia's opinion that homosexuality should be accepted, not merely tolerated.

Besides the articles, Twilhaar said the magazine's pictures have also become more risque. Pictures of nude men are not uncommon but with Manazine, it's not just nudity. Manazine used a picture of a pair of nude male models lying next to each other, covered only by a feather boa.

MDA said the problem wasn't just nude images but the portrayal of nude males in a homosexual fashion, promoting a gay lifestyle. Cheong said: In its 2003 report, the Censorship Review Committee assessed that homosexuality remains a sensitive subject in our society. The MDA's approach to published materials which promote homosexual lifestyles, therefore, reflects the need to ensure that our norms and mores are not compromised.

The magazine is rated R(A), so only those aged 21 and over can apply for a subscription. Twilhaar  estimates that 80 per cent of Manazine's 25,000 to 30,000 readers are homosexual. He claimed the magazine's circulation now stands at 10,000 copies bi-monthly.

 

25th March  Bizarre Decision

From Sify

Swarnamalya is always in the news for all the wrong reasons. Now the Sreeman-Swarnamalya soft-porn film directed by Sagar titled Sorry Enakku Kalyanam Ayiduchu has been denied a censor certificate by the regional censor board in Chennai! It has been referred to the revising committee in Mumbai.

The censor board found the whole concept of the film as an excuse for skin-show plus some crude double meaning dialogues and spread wrong notions to the young generation. In the film Sreeman and Swarnamalya play husband and wife. Four friends of Sreeman lust after his wife and to find out who his real friend is, he asks his sexy wife to seduce them!

The central theme of the film is wife swapping which the censor board found bizarre and alien to Indian culture.

 

24th March  MDA Still Classify as Censors

Based on an article from Channel News Asia

The way film and video censorship is carried out in Singapore is changing as censors rate rather than simply cut what you are watching. The aim is to leave slightly more  choice of what to watch in the hands of the viewer.

What this means is that there are many more movies and videos on the market that would not have made it under the old rules. Controversial movies like The Passion of the Christ wouldn't have seen the light of day in stores if not for the new ratings.

The movie which has an M18 rating for its brutally graphic scenes is one of the 4,695 videos released since the new NC-16 and M18 ratings were launched last July. A third of these videos are new titles while the rest are older movies that have been reclassified.

While there are indeed more choices after the new video classification scheme the authorities are still playing it safe: 193 video titles were banned by the authorities because they were deemed too graphic to be even labelled under the M-18 category.

As the Media Development Authority (MDA) moves away from outright censorship, it says in many cases the distributors are the ones who decide which cuts to make.

On the rating of films, they get help from a panel of Singaporeans from diverse backgrounds who give their recommendations to the censors.

Vijay Chandran, Member, Films Consultative Panel, said: What would I personally like this film to be rated? Is it a film that I feel comfortable that my wife should be watching, do I feel comfortable that my child should be watching? Then I make a decision based on that. I think that there are distributors that should be fighting. I think that members of the public should also speak up for films they feel strongly for.

And to get more public feedback on the issue, the MDA will be conducting a second censorship survey later this year.

 

12th March  The Age For Passion

From the Toronto Star

Ontario moviegoers under 18 will still have to be accompanied by an adult to see the tamer, recut version of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

Gibson's company is re-releasing his religious film today in a slightly tamer form to appeal to those uncomfortable with the original release's harrowing scenes of violence.

The original version, released last February, is a box office hit and is available on DVD, but has been criticized for lengthy violent scenes of Jesus' scourging and crucifixion.

Newmarket Films has shaved about five minutes from the film's more intense sequences. The Passion Recut follows the agonizing final 12 hours of Jesus' life, taken from four separate accounts in the Bible. It is being re-released in time for the Easter season.

In the UK, the cut version was awarded a 15 certificate (albeit with the comment that it was still considered strong violence for a 15)

In the U.S., the Motion Picture Association of America's ratings board did not give Passion the PG-13 rating the filmmakers hoped for, so Newmarket is releasing The Passion Recut as an unrated film, with a new running time of 122 minutes.

It worked in British Columbia, where the censor board lowered the rating to PG-13, but the Ontario Film Review Board has retained its original 18-A classification.

 

10th March  Bangladesh Bans

From the Bangladesh Journal

Information Minister M. Shamsul Islam on Thursday said the government, as part of its ongoing drive against obscenity and vulgarism in the film industry, has cancelled censor certificates of 20 Bangla and 22 English films during the last one year.

Replying to a supplementary question, the minister said that lawful action was also taken against the authorities of 29 movie houses for screening objectionable films during the period. Since the government is firm determine to protect the country's film industry from vulgarism, we are thinking to enact stringent law in this regard, the minister said adding that steps were also taken to make the existing laws time befitting.

Replying to another question, Shamsul Islam said that the government had no immediate plan to establish a film institute in the country. But, he said, the National Institute of Mass Communications is responsible for conducting training programmes on film related matters.

 

9th March  Thai Film Censors Soon to be Mostly Police instead of All  Police

From the Bangkok Post

Membership of the Film Censorship Board will be open to volunteers and the public under a proposed amendment to the Thai Film Act.

Culture Ministry permanent secretary Thipawadee Meksawan, said the draft was being scrutinised by the Council of the State and was expected to be approved by parliament this year.

The amendment provides for setting up a screening committee to select the 19-member Film Censorship Board, which until now has been appointed by the police chief. Many of the board's members have normally been senior police officers, especially the top positions.

The new committee would be able to recruit ''suitable outsiders'' such as scholars and volunteers to the board. The new selection process does not necessarily mean the current censorship staff fail. It is just a new recruitment policy under a changed environment, Khunying Thipawadee said.

Film censorship, overseen for many decades by police, was transferred to the Culture Ministry last year. The ministry has been waiting for decisions by about 200 police working at the Film Censorship Department whether they want to transfer to the new agency. We hope they will join us as I have heard many of them developed a passion for the job, she said.

Instead of chopping out or putting vaseline on sexually explicit scenes, the new censorship criteria would focus on rating films, VCDs and DVDs shown or sold in the country to ensure the content was viewed by an appropriate audience.

[Nutters need not worry I can guarantee that the Thai censors will continue to cut, ban & pixellate with enthusiasm unbounded].

 

9th March  Irish Censor On Song

Based on a pro censorship interview  from The Irish Examiner

The film 9 Songs according to one critic, is the most sexually graphic film ever to be passed with certificate from the film censor. It shows graphic footage of sexual activity, not simulated but actually performed by the film’s participants, intercut with footage of concert performances.

So why isn’t it going mainstream? Probably because its only point of interest is the graphic footage. It is not, according to the censor, pornographic in the way of films made by the sex industry. These are a lot more explicit than 9 Songs, and presumably can be watched in more privacy.

For this and other reasons John Kelleher, the Irish film censor seems somewhat impatient with the Family and Media Association (FMA) for making a fuss over 9 Songs. He’s had more letters about this film than about all others combined, he tells me. Many of the letters, he says, were identical to those sent to members of the Oireachtas as part of a campaign undertaken by the FMA.

Kelleher would prefer to be a film classifier, not a film censor. I have become increasingly convinced that the majority of adult citizens in our society today share my own view that adults should be entitled, subject to the law, to choose for themselves what they might wish to see.

He takes heart from the fact that those politicians who received correspondence from the Family and Media Association didn’t take up the cudgels but instead passed the letters on to him and sought his views. It may be naive, however, to read too much into this apparently ‘liberal’ stance among our politicians.

Politicians know an awkward subject when they see one, and they know how to dodge it. Values-based voluntary groups like the Family and Media Association don’t have many friends in the media, and politicians don’t want to be ridiculed as old-fashioned.

Such is the reluctance among politicians to talk about sex at all that there wasn’t a single TD (MP) or senator present recently at the launch of the Freedom from Pornography Campaign. Pornography is not harmless fun, says spokeswoman Helen Mortimer. It provides a climate of sexual hostility and encourages the notion that a woman’s worth depends on her sexual appeal to men.

In our interview Kelleher is careful to distinguish between the explicit sexual imagery as in 9 Songs and pornography that is exploitative, gratuitous and aims to arouse people sexually.

He acknowledges there are limits to what can be classified as fit for viewing. He originally banned the film Spun in July 2003 because it depicted sexual violence, all kinds of depravity, and very hard drug abuse. He says he would refuse to classify anything that would promote drug-taking, breaches of the law, and of course films in which people were actually brutalised and killed.

Films which are passed for viewing in Irish cinemas must, by law, be certified for video release as well. In this context, the film censor points out that he banned Spun partly because, although he felt it might be suitable for an over-18 cert in the ‘controlled environment’ of a limited cinema release, he wanted to prohibit a video/DVD release.

The censor appears somewhat fatalistic about the difficulties with censoring explicit material in a world where you can watch Arab terrorists decapitate a western hostage on a computer screen. Given what is readily available today on the internet,” he wrote to one complainant,
on daytime - not to mention late night - television, and even on the shelves of most newsagents, it would be difficult to understand what harm (9 Songs) could cause even to older adolescents, let alone adults.

 

9th March  Indian Appeal

From Now Running

Chand Bujh Gaya a Hindi feature film based on the 2002 Gujarat communal violence and which features a splitting likeness of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, has just been released in India.

The release of the film, whose title translates as "The Moon Has Been Eclipsed", was delayed by over a year as the Censor Board wanted drastic cuts in it but the Bombay High Court, acting on the producer's appeal, ordered it to be shown in its entirety.

The censor board objected to the fact that the character of the Gujarat chief minister, played by Pratap Singh, was uncannily similar to that of the original.

The board had also objected to explicit references to places like Godhra, Vadodara and Surat, apart from several violence-affected neighbourhoods of Ahmedabad city.

Producer Faaiz Anwar then approached the Bombay High Court, which not only ordered the censor board to pass the film without cuts, but also appreciated its humanitarian message.

The film narrates the love story of a Hindu boy, played by Faisal Khan, and a Muslim girl, Shama Sikander, against the backdrop of the sectarian strife in the state that claimed more than 1,000 lives, the majority of them Muslims.

The film also depicts the Godhra train burning that claimed 59 lives and sparked the statewide violence.

The film is about unity and harmony. We expect a good response from Gujarat, director Sharique Minhaj said.

 

7th March  Age Old Censors

Based on an article from Stuff

VHSC is what the Malaysian Censorship Board looks for in deciding whether a film is suitable for public viewing. This stands for violence, horror, sex and counter-culture according to board chairman, Datuk Shaari Mohd Noor,  But the guidelines are not "applied 100 per cent". If we do that, I don’t think we can show any film.

Q: The public as well as those in the film industry have described the board as old-fashioned and conservative. Do you agree with this observation?

A: You are immersed in an ever controversial situation, because judging films is very subjective. The enforcement agencies are not always popular and the board happens to be one of the enforcement agencies. Naturally when you enforce laws, there is always some dissatisfaction among the people. They always think this is not right, that is not right.

Q: Is the board flexible when you get feedback on your decision?

A: When we cut a film, we go back to the producer. If they are agreeable to the cuts, then they shouldn’t raise anymore objections. If they are not, then they can appeal and we have an appeals committee with representatives from the Home Ministry, the Inspector-General of Police, and the Information and Education ministries. They are senior officers plus ex-government officers like us but there is also an active film maker. There is always recourse for appeal. There is redress.

Q: Do you meet film directors/producers before they make a film?

A: We get a synopsis. We don’t vet the scripts.

Q: What is your opinion of Malaysian films?

A: I do not want to comment, but I always take Iran as an example. The Iranian government guidelines are far tighter than ours but, you see, their films have won international awards.

Q: Are you saying that Malaysian film makers are in a better position because our guidelines are not as tight as those in Iran?.

A: Well, as I have said, Iranian films have won international awards.

Q: How many films does the board review in a week?

A: For the cinema, two films on the average. For the tapes, VCDs and so on, lots of them. We have a group of people to sit through the movies.

Each panel comprises usually three people. And say, if we are reviewing a Tamil film, then the head of the panel is an Indian, because, he will understand the culture better. If it is a Chinese film, then a Chinese will head the panel.

Q: How many locally-made films have you banned?

A: None at all. Since January 2003 until Feb 15, we have passed all the films we screened, including Sepet which was passed with cuts (Lulus Dengan Potongan). Also Gangster got the same rating. The rest were passed clean (Lulus Bersih).

Q: What about foreign films?

A: Perhaps, about one per cent. We don’t enjoy banning films. If the panel recommends that a film be banned, most likely, we get a second viewing. We are not trigger-happy, as most people think we are.

I must stress the fact that though our members are over 56, but they are all very alert, knowledgeable. They have a lot of experience in government service, in diverse sectors. We are just like the members of the Public Service Commission. They are also pensioners like us.

Q: People think that since the board is made up of pensioners, they will only be too ready to impose their own value judgments.

A: I would always ask this: Are you prepared to watch television with your young daughters and grand-daugthers and see rape scenes, violence and so on? Of course, in urban areas, most people probably have more than one television set. They don’t have to share with others when watching TV. But we are talking about the majority, say in the rural areas, in the kampung, where many people sit and watch TV together.

Q: What would make films unsuitable?

A: Several things but we look for excessiveness, like the theme of serial rapists and excessive violence. For example, a scene of a man being shot in the head may be okay but if the scene shows the head being shattered, well that is too much.

Q: Are Hong Kong martial art movies considered violent?

A: We don’t consider martial arts as violent.

Q: Would you describe your work as stressful?

A: You have to be sensitive because when you view films, your eyes need to focus and you have to listen to the dialogue. All the faculties are working. That is why there is no room for people who are not attentive.

Q: So age is irrelevant?

A: Yes, it is irrelevant. You have to be attentive. You have to be healthy and have good eyesight.

 

5th March  9 Songs Easily 18

Based on an article from Stuff

The sexually explicit mainstream movie, Nine Songs, has passed the New Zealand film censor with an "18" rating.

Nine Songs, includes more than 30 minutes of unsimulated sex scenes, including penetration and close-up shots of oral sex. The film, originally given an X-rating in Australia, effectively banning it, was given an 18 rating there last month on review.

David Lane, spokesman for Kiwi nutters, the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards, would not comment till he had read the decision. But before its approval Lane opposed the film's screening and said it would open the door to hardcore pornography on the big screen.

The crazed film censor Bill Hastings disagreed. He said the sexual conduct in the film was not contrived and took place within a loving, adult relationship. It was not a tough decision. The sex in it was quite loving.

The film, directed by Michael Winterbottom, is so far scheduled to screen only at the 2005 New Zealand Film Festival starting in July, but its classification paves the way for its screening in mainstream cinemas.

Rialto cinema programming manager Tony Bald said he expected to decide about showing the film within the next few weeks.

 

4th March  Brunei Censors Advertise Constantine

From The Star

Bootleg VCDs of the banned film Constantine starring Keanu Reeves were found to be sold openly at many outlets in Brunei. Some salesgirls told the Borneo Bulletin that the VCDs arrived in their shops on Tuesday evening and have since been selling like hot cakes. We need to order more copies as you can see only one VCD is left. We have not seen the story but by the way it is going, it must be a good one, said the salesgirls.

They alleged that they were not aware that the film was banned from public showing by the Brunei censor board last week. We don't know it is banned and we were only asked to sell, they claimed.

Constantine has been banned in Brunei in accordance with the guidelines of the censor board, Dato Paduka Hj Ahmad bin Kadi, the secretary, told the Borneo Bulletin last week. He added that the film was deemed unsuitable for public viewing.
[But more than suitable for an effective advertising campaign]

 

3rd March  Taiwan No Longer Wayward

From The Hindustan Times

Taiwan censors have approved the release of a more sexually explicit version of a film already on circuit in a tamer form, after it won an award at the Berlin Film Festival, an official said.

Government censors in December approved a version of The Wayward Cloud - the latest production of noted Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang - that had been submitted to them with some sex scenes removed.

The uncut version of the film won a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival this month and Tsai afterwards returned it to censors in its fuller form. The uncut version includes oral sex, nudity and other sexually explicit scenes.

Taiwan has relaxed its obscenity law in recent years in response to a more open society. But movies are still banned from showing genitals, sexual intercourse or nudity unless such scenes can be justified as essential to the plot. A 15-member government committee voted on Thursday that the production could be released as an R-rated film without any censorship, an official said. Nine committee members voted against cutting the movie while five preferred partial cuts and one asked the film banned, government film division official Pan Tsun-yun said.

The Wayward Cloud describes the relationship between a woman who returned from studying in Paris and a man who acts in porn movies. It has sparked controversy here for explicit depiction of sexual activities.

He has been praised as one of Taiwan's most influential directors and has won various international awards for his work, including the FIPRESCI award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival for The Hole, Silver Bear at the 1996 Berlin Film Festival for The River and a Golden Lion at the 1994 Venice Film Festival for Vive L'Amour.

 

23rd February  Brunei Censors Possessed by Demons

From The Star

Brunei has banned Keanu Reeves' new film Constantine, an apocalyptic thriller that depicts demon possessions, visions of hell and a renegade angel, an official said yesterday.

The movie has been deemed unsuitable for public viewing, Ahmad Kadir, the secretary of the Brunei government's Censor Board, said by telephone from the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. However, he declined to reveal the reasons for the board's decision.

Brunei has some of South-East Asia's strictest censorship guidelines for movies and songs, especially involving material that might be considered offensive to Islam.

Constantine, which opens in the United States on Friday, is steeped in Roman Catholic mythology and features Reeves as a chain-smoking exorcist who dispatches demons back to the underworld in hopes of erasing a mortal sin he once committed.

The film opened last week in Malaysia. Malaysian censors edited out several curse words and rated the movie as having “non-excessive violent and horrifying scenes," but did not object to the religious material

 

13th February  Shattered Again

From Refused Classification monitoring Australia's censors. Thanks to Andrew

In late 2004 Siren Visual Entertainment announced that they would be releasing Agustin Villaronga's 1986 Spanish film,  In a Glass Cage on DVD on March 25th 2005. On February 8th 2005 it was again Refused Classification by the OFLC. It is released internationally on DVD in 2003 by Cult Epics (Holland) and C.A.V Distribution (USA).

This was the movie that shattered the myth that film festivals were out of reach of the censors. In 1995 Queer Screen applied to show it at the upcoming Mardi Gras Film Festival. The application was refused, and an appeal to the Film Board of Review produced the following response:

Reasons for the Decision

The Review Board based its decision principally on the graphic scenes of, and unrelenting focus on, child physical and sexual abuse, torture and murder described in paragraph 5.2 above, and the tone of relish in both visuals and dialogue as described in paragraph 5.3 above. The Review Board is of the view that elements of gratuitousness and the relishing of child abuse and torture pervade the film and outweigh considerations of the film as a serious exploration of the problem of child sexual abuse and torture in Nazi concentration camps, and its consequences. In the Board's opinion these made the film 'indecent'.

In coming to this view, the Board also had regard to current community concern about child exploitation and abuse, and considered that the portrayals in the film fell within the proscriptions in all States and Territories against 'films which depict a person (whether engaged in sexual activity or otherwise) who is......under the age of 16 years in a manner that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult. The Board is of the opinion that, when judged by current community standards and concern about child sexual abuse, the film would be considered to be offensive. The current Guidelines for the Classification of Films ,which require that films which depict child sexual abuse be refused classification, reflects these State and Territory laws.

The film was considered by the Board to be well made, and to have as a major theme the horrific consequences of wartime Nazi child abuse on the young victims, rather than that of promoting such practices. However, in the Board's view, this is outweighed by the gratuitous elements of the film and the pervasive relishing of child abuse and torture. Further, the Board notes that the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations do not provide for the consideration of 'artistic or educational merit'.

The Review Board's decision is to confirm the ban, under Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulation

 

6th February  Parents are a Mere Insult to the Crazed New Zealand Censor

This most be one of the most obnoxious censors I have ever written about. I really don't believe that the New Zealand people can  possibly put up with such a show of disrespect to so many people.

From Stuff

Parents who let their children watch or play anything with an R18 rating are breaking the law, Chief Censor Bill Hastings says. Hastings said yesterday the increasing number of parents buying R18 video games for their children was an insult to his work.

R18 games, such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, were big sellers over Christmas with many parents buying them for their children. An R18 rating on a game is just as meaningful as an R18 rating on a video. When people ignore these ratings, they waste both taxpayers' money and our time, Hastings said.

Under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993, offenders can be fined up to $10,000 and sentenced to up to three months' jail. However, no one had yet been charged, he said. When something was rated, it was done to prevent those people who were likely to be harmed from seeing it. It means we've decided that it's likely to injure the public good if someone under the rated age uses it. Just because something was termed "a game" did not mean it was meant for children, he said.

Although most games were rated because of violent content rather than sexual content, this didn't make them any more appropriate. In fact, violent content was the more serious problem, he said. Many R18 video games involved such things as torture and vengeful killing, as well as copious amounts of blood and gore, he said. If a parent sat down with their 13 or 15-year-old for an hour or so to watch them play these R18 games, they would probably regret the purchase, Hastings claimed.

 

6th February  Non-Halal Censorship

Based on an article from the New Sunday Times

Watching the recent Golden Globe award presentation, an annoying thought came to mind, How many of these movies will the Malaysian Film Censorship Board, ever allow us to watch? Trailers of Manchurian Candidate, Mike Nicholas’ Closer, which earned two Golden Globes, Alexander Payne’s Sideways and Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby were shown. The question is will these movies be released here, or will they remain in the censor's closet?

The lack of consistency in our censoring is a recurring phenomenon in spite of numerous debates on, "whether a ban or a cut is reasonable?" Currently, the unkindest cut of all seems to be on Yasmin Ahmad’s movie, Sepet — a tale about a young Chinese VCD vendor who falls for a young pretty Malay girl. But our Censorship Board has imposed eight poorly justified cuts on the film. If the filmmakers fail to co-operate, the film will be banned.

Most notable one cut was justified by the repressive argument Why did you make the Malay heroine walk into a Chinese restaurant where non-halal food was probably served? Such a jaundiced vision will surely only serve to broaden the divide between races.

The board continues to push the jaded myth that our society is fragile and vulnerable, and hence in need of protective censorship.

The Home Affairs Ministry admits that there were about 1,500 foreign films banned in Malaysia since 2000. And while many have remained in the X Files, a few bans have been lifted. For instance, Jim Carrey’s Bruce Almighty was initially banned on religious grounds. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was approved for screening at designated cinemas to be seen by Christians only. Stephen Spielberg’s Holocaust film Schindler's List was unsuitable because of political content, while The Prince of Egypt, an animated epic about Moses, was "insensitive for religious reasons".

The trouble with our censorship process is that it seems to be arbitrary and subjective, and no one is ultimately accountable for it. A kissing scene between women, in The Hours was banned while similar scenes among men in Oliver Stone’s Alexander, were allowed.

Interestingly, some movie makers intentionally include violence and graphic sexual scenes, so that the censors get something to cut. In this way the censors feel that they earned their keep and movie makers get to show what they really want to show.

Singapore Media Development Authority’s rating system under age classifications reflects a positive mind shift, where a consumer can decide for himself based on the rating. But I read, they too have problems in the interpretations.

Who represents us at the Censorship Board? Are they educationalists, journalists, parents and sociologists? Do they like movies? Why are they so scissor-happy? Some say the entire point of this argument is futile because no matter what, movies have entered our rooms in various ways, making a mockery of the rulings. In the days of information revolution, we receive a lot from cable television, video and the Internet.

Finally, censorship negates creativity. Freedom of expression is a necessary tool for a creative artist. If you stifle that, you kill the talented local industry. Unfortunately, to some extent movies have been perceived as the partial cause for the moral decline of society and the Censor Board has been blamed for it. It is also unfortunate that unlike other government decisions that sometimes could be buried in some obscure files, the outcome of the censors’ decision, are seen or heard by all.

Nonetheless, movies are a work of art and have to be seen in the light of total impact. Ideally, on a big screen. And this is possible if the board just cuts pornography and violence and leaves the rest to us. Meanwhile, if there is some time left at the censor's office, they can start banning movies that glamorise the servility of women.

 

23rd January  Songs of Censorship

Note that the original Australian X18+ is similar to the BBFC R18 rating and would have prevented an Australian cinema release. The Australian R18+ is similar to the BBFC 18 rating and can be shown in cinemas

OFLC, the Australian censor, issued the following press release found on  www.refused-classification.com

9 Songs classified R18+ upon review

A five-member panel of the Classification Review Board has determined, in a 3 to 2 majority decision, that the film, 9 Songs, directed by Michael Winterbottom, is classified R18+ with the consumer advice, “Actual sex, High-level sex scenes ”.

Only persons aged 18 years and over can gain entry to a film that has been classified R18+.

In the Classification Review Board’s majority opinion, the film warrants an R18+, rather than an X18+ classification, because, while some scenes may offend some sections of the adult community, the actual sex scenes are justified by the context, narrative, tone and artistic merit.

Classification Review Board Convener Maureen Shelley said, 9 Songs depicts a couple’s emotional and physical relationship and the sexual activity is incidental to and reflective of this theme.

The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. Meeting in camera, it makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. This Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

The Classification Review Board’s reasons for this decision will appear on the OFLC website when finalised.

 

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